As believers, we are told we are in a battle against the powers of darkness—a spiritual battle. As soldiers in God’s spiritual army, we have a choice about how we will respond when the battle gets heated. Will we hunker down and just try to survive, or will we act with power, courage, and heroism? Staff member C’havala Crawley, who leads CRM’s strategic prayer initiative, has an impactful “war-time” illustration of this.
When our central African leaders arrived at the location where they had been asked to take seven evangelists through a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) training, they were in for a surprise. The house they had been directed to was filled with men and women on pallets on the floor who were sick and dying—38 of them.
Ezekiel 37:1-6 (ESV) | “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’
I was recently in a Bible Study where we were looking at Paul’s letters. One of the themes we looked at was “proclamation with power.” When Paul talked about proclaiming the gospel, he referred to the element of power in the process:
Suffering Servant, Risen Savior: Wrapping Up Our Suffering Series
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
–Jesus (John 16:33)
Over the last two months our blog has followed the journey of pilgrims on the path of suffering. We have leaned in to hear of their experiences—their troubles—and we have had the chance to glean of the wisdom born of their struggles. Our hope in wrestling through the reality of suffering was that you would find encouragement and counsel for your own times of challenge and that you would reach out to grab the hand of the Savior who walks beside you no matter how dark and long the road may be.
If this series has connected with you or helped you in some way, we would love to hear about it! Please drop us a note. How have you known the presence of God in your suffering?
We had a tradition of going to the graveside Easter morning.
Somewhere between sunrise service, Easter breakfast, the overfilled sanctuary of Easter service, and the hunt for Easter baskets, we squeezed it in—my mom, little sister, two brothers, and me. Standing in snow, shivering against the Minnesota cold, I would open my Bible and find words of resurrection:
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
PSALM 22:1-5 (NASB) | “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy…In You our fathers trusted…To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed.”
Sooner or later every Christian will experience something of this sense of desolation. It’s the desperate cry of a soul that has sacrificially responded in obedience to God’s call, but then found him to be mysteriously absent.
Suffering That Produces Life in God's Kingdom
I had a vivid moment when I was growing up. My parents were pastors and they were struggling significantly in their marriage. I was young, maybe six years old, and felt a lot of uncertainty, fear, and pain in seeing them struggle and not knowing what the outcome was going to be. Would they stay together? Would they divorce? I remember kneeling at that age and asking Jesus to come and help—just kneeling in my room by myself—and receiving a lot of comfort. It was a really sweet moment. Things did not get resolved right away, but my parents’ marriage was eventually restored and there was a lot of fruit that came out of that crisis. So I was able to see God’s restoration firsthand, and how he was hearing my prayers and accompanying me all along. That was a key moment for me. Later in my life, while praying, I felt the Spirit saying, “I planted devotion through that suffering.” Although there was a lot of struggle in my suffering, there was something deep being planted about relating to Jesus in those difficult moments of my early life.
I wasn’t playing dress up. It wasn’t Halloween. And nope, I wasn’t at a sci-fi convention. But people thought I was wearing a costume.
It was high-school culture week, traditional clothing day. Being mixed-race, I had a plethora of cultures to choose from, and I decided to represent my Native American heritage.
I proudly adorned myself in my regalia: complete with deer hides, rabbit furs, and a touch of my own beadwork. With a draping of abalone shells that made me sound like a delicate wind chime as I walked by, I was off to school.
LUKE 22:32 (NIV) | “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
This was the last Passover meal that Jesus would share with his disciples. It was the weekend of the crucifixion, and he spoke frankly about his upcoming death. The disciples had heard this before but were still in disbelief, unable to imagine the future without the Master. And none was more vocal than impetuous, passionate Simon Peter. It was Simon who gave the bold proclamation that the other disciples hoped was true: “You are Christ, the Messiah.” Jesus announced that this was God’s revelation and gave Simon a new name: Peter, the rock. Simon Peter vacillated between his two names, but he would grow into his new name.